We’re delighted to have a guest blog from Rhiannon Findlay, Commissioning Editor of Ladybird Books, who explains why it’s so important to read to children from birth.
Should I read to my baby? Is it worth it? Will it actually help?
If you’ve ever wondered about any of the above, you’re not alone. The answer to all of those questions is a resounding YES! Reading to your baby is key to developing language and communication skills. It’s crucial to emotional development. It’s also a perfect opportunity to share some cuddles and quality time! From black-and-white cloth books to touch-and-feel board books, there are so many wonderful ways to engage your baby, stimulate their senses, encourage interaction and prompt their first words.
It may sound obvious, but when reading to babies from birth it’s important to remember you’re not teaching them to read. Children learn to talk long before they learn to read, and sharing books out loud with your baby is a brilliant way to help them pick up language – as well as being one of the most enjoyable.
Baby and pre-school books are carefully designed with the different stages of child development in mind. Black-and-white books are a perfect choice for newborns, as they support developing eyesight: babies see only black, white and grey during their first three months. Their focus is also a little blurry, so bold patterns or simple images with clean outlines often work best. As the months go by, your baby will start to see high-contrast colours such as yellow and red, and their visual focus will begin to stabilise. By twelve months, they will be able to see in full colour and fix their eyes on objects.
As your child’s vision improves, you will notice them becoming more and more responsive to what they see on the page. First concepts such as words, numbers, colours, shapes and opposites can all be explored out loud with your baby through bright, colourful and engaging board books, and the association between words and pictures plays an influential part in their basic learning. Touch-and-feel books are perfect for sensory development and co-ordination, while lift-the-flap, hide-and-seek or peekaboo options are ideal for children from five months plus who have begun to recognise objects and develop curiosity. Picture books are a wonderful choice particularly for bedtime, when you can snuggle up and enjoy some treasured time together; not only does this reinforce routine, but many picture books also help children to understand emotions and behaviour, as well as supporting their literacy and helping to instil a lifelong love of reading.
It’s best to read to babies little and often. Their attention spans are still developing, so try reading for up to ten minutes at a time. Repeating favourite books is a great way of reinforcing the language they hear and aiding recognition. Talk about the pictures, give your baby the opportunity to respond, and encourage any noises, babbles or gurgles! Positive communication is instrumental to your child’s happiness and confidence and will help them develop future relationships at nursery, school and in later life.
If you'd like some inspiration for books to read to babies, check out the recommended Ladybird titles below: